Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to build a $95 million public safety training campus on the West Side cleared a key hurdle Monday, but not before a barrage of questions about financing, police overtime abuse and alleged intransigence by the Fraternal Order of Police.
After 3.5 hours of debate, the City Council’s Committee on Housing and Real Estate authorized the city to pay $9.6 million — $7.25-per-square-foot — for 30.4 acres of land at 4301 W. Chicago Ave. that has stood stubbornly vacant for 40 years.
Funding for the land will come from the surrounding tax-increment financing district.
Construction of the two-building campus will be bankrolled by: $20 million from the sale of a valuable North Side fleet maintenance facility; $5 million from the sale of the air rights above a River North fire station, and $23 million from the sale of existing police and fire facilities.
Fleet and Facilities Management Commissioner David Reynolds said the city would work with the Chicago Infrastructure Trust to close the remaining $37 million gap, either through a “straight loan,” a lease buy-back arrangement or by issuing “bonds to pay for it ourselves.”
The lease-buyback didn’t sit well with Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) who argued that, “Chicago should always maintain ownership of its assets, particularly those used for police and fire training.”
Pawar also noted the FOP’s condemnation of a U.S. Justice Department report that portrayed Chicago Police officers as poorly trained, improperly supervised and seldom disciplined.
“It’s hard for me to stomach spending $95 million when our negotiating partner doesn’t believe a problem exists,” Pawar said.
Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) agreed that there is a “basic distrust of the Police Department and an FOP” that endorsed Donald Trump.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) and local Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) hailed the new facility as an economic and public safety boon to an impoverished West Side.
“As I go through the community, that’s one thing I’ve heard: ‘We don’t feel safe to come out of our homes.’ I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that having this academy is gonna put more police presence in the neighborhood. Hopefully, they no longer have to have that fear,” Mitts said.